Garuda disaster greets safety boss

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Experts from Australia and USA to help Indonesia's new NTSC chairman investigate latest in a spate of accidents

The newly appointed chairman of Indonesia's national transport safety commission NTSC is leading the investigation into why a Garuda Indonesia Airlines Boeing 737-400 overran a runway, killing at least 22 people.

The sudden appointment of Tatang Kurniadi as NTSC chairman - a day before the 7 March accident - had been announced by the country's embattled transport minister Hatta Rajasa, who is under huge political pressure to fix the country's transport woes.

 
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At least 22 people were killed when the Garuda Boeing 737-400 overran a runway

 

The Garuda crash is the fourth serious Indonesian commercial aircraft accident in as many months, and there have been disastrous ferry accidents recently. Kurniadi says he is personally heading the investigation, but will be assisted by experts from Australia and the USA, who have arrived in Indonesia. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has been tasked with recovering information from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders (FDR/CVR), which are now in Canberra.

The 737 (PK-GZC) arrived at Jogyakarta, Java at 06:55 on a domestic flight from Jakarta and made a hard landing on the 2,200m (7,200ft)-long runway 09. Kurniadi says: "The front nose gear broke and was left behind on the runway." Then the aircraft overran the runway end by 300m, hit an embankment, causing detachment of the right wing outboard of the engine and fracturing the fuselage behind the flightdeck. The accident occurred in good visibility and light wind.

There were 133 passengers and seven crew on board. Some 48h after the crash, the casualty list stood at 22 dead, two missing and about 50 seriously injured - some with extensive burns. Kurniadi says the pilots were injured, but survived, and have been interviewed by investigators. According to local press reports, witnesses who work in aviation - some of them survivors of the accident and others airport-based - seem to agree that the aircraft landed fast and steeply and bounced twice.

Boeing, the US Federal Aviation Administration and the US National Transportation Safety Board have sent representatives to Indonesia to help with the investigation, and NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker is on the scene.

Recent Indonesian commercial airline accidents include an Adam Air 737-300 hard landing on 21 February that resulted in the aircraft's mid-fuselage buckling the 1 January Adam Air 737-400 crash into the sea off Sulawesi island, killing all 102 on board and the 24 December 2006 Lion Air Boeing 737-400 hard landing at Makassar, in which the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.